The Los Angeles Lakers' rebuilding project might take a while in the wake of missing out on Carmelo Anthony (who will re-sign the New York Knicks, Ken Berger of CBS Sports reports) and LeBron James, but deals like the one that brought Jeremy Lin into the fold are a step in the right direction.
SportsCenter tweeted out the details of the deal:
UPDATE: Rockets trade Jeremy Lin and 1st-round pick to Lakers to clear cap space for Chris Bosh & Chandler Parsons. http://t.co/FH6G1Z2dcy— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 11, 2014
Right now, the addition of Lin seems anticlimactic for the storied franchise. After all, there has been speculation for the last year that the allure of playing in Hollywood could bring James or Anthony this offseason. Lin is far from either of those franchise-changing superstars.
But for a team that now finds itself in the midst of a full-fledged rebuild, this is a move that is bound to pay dividends.
Most importantly, there's the fact that, in the short term, Lin is a big upgrade at the point guard position. As ESPN Stats and Info points out, he was much more productive last season than his new teammates at the same position:
Over the last 4 seasons @JLin7 has twice as many 20 point-10 assist games (6) than all of the Lakers point guards combined (3).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 12, 2014
From a sheer basketball perspective, Lin offers someone who can not only set up teammates, but create offense for himself. Only James shot better from the floor on drives, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Jeremy Lin reportedly going to Lakers. He shot 57.9% off drives last season, 2nd only to LeBron James who shot 63.8% (Min 7 drives per game)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 11, 2014
Of course, the reason the Lakers were able to snag Lin for nothing was because he's on the books for $14.9 million this season, according to Spotrac. However, unlike most salary dumps, where the player in question is meant to sit on the roster for one season, Lin could be a meaningful asset going forward for the right price.
While Lin has always been a polarizing player because of his popularity, his numbers have been consistent over the last three seasons. As a part-time starter last season, he averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists on 44.6 percent shooting.
In his 2012 season as a full-time starter, he averaged 13.4 points per game and 6.1 assists on 44.1 percent shooting. And those numbers could see a spike once he leaves the Houston Rockets. As noted by Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York:
Take this to the bank: As thrilled as Houston is to shed Jeremy Lin's $, Lin is more thrilled to shed Kevin McHale's coaching— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) July 12, 2014
Even though his celebrity status has made it seem like he's been around forever, Lin is only 25. As long as he continues to deliver on a consistent basis, it would make sense to ink him to a long-term contract going forward.
Which asset will turn out to be more valuable to the Lakers?
But even if Lin doesn't pan out, if he can't coexist with Kobe Bryant and Nick Young, this trade will still turn out to be a positive for the Lakers going forward by virtue of the first-round pick they'll receive from Houston.
When engaging in a rebuild project, it never hurts to stockpile as many first-round picks as possible. With their 2015 and 2017 first-rounders shipped off in deals for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, it's pivotal that the Lakers give themselves a shot at acquiring top young talent via the draft.
Of course, the dream scenario for the Lakers at this point is that Lin plays to his potential and the draft pick is either used as a trade asset or turns into a promising prospect.
However it turns out, fans should take solace in knowing that the organization is already showing the savvy it takes to ultimately turn things around in Los Angeles.